by Sam Juliano
Christmas shoppers and home lighters have begun their annual rituals aided by unseasonably moderate weather. Meanwhile film critics’ awards groups have begun giving out prizes, with both The Artist and Hugo getting the nods from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review respectively. Here in Giants territory, fans are mourning this evening’s crushing 38 to 35 loss to the undefeated Green Bay Packers here on home turf. The Jets, however, won a crucial game against the Washington Redskins to stay in the playoff hunt.
Maurizio Roca has made his return to the writing ranks with a stupendous avante garde entry in the “Fixing A Hole” series, while Jamie Uhler’s incomparable “Getting Over the Beatles” series has reached it’s 52nd installment with another banner post. Jaime Grijalba’s masterful and moving feature on the late Shingo Araki represents one of his most eloquent and passionate pieces to date, while the Fish Obscuro series continues in splendid form. On the horizon are the Ford and Kubrick series and the comedy countdown and science-fiction countdowns.
To say that Lucille and I were active on the cultural scene this past week would be quite the understatement as all told we saw five films in theatres, one stage play, an opera from the Met in HD at the local multiplex, and a ‘Renaissance Christmas 17th Centry English music concert at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. In addition to this, I saw two reviewings of The Descendants and The Artist to see if both films held up to fullfill a personal commitment. That made for a total of 1o ‘events’ over seven days.
Handel’s RODELINDA is an utterly captivating and rapturous baroque opera written by George Frideric Handel in Italian, and the work received ‘A’ plus staging at the Metropolitan Opera, who opted to include this in their 2011-12 HD series schedule. (It began at 1:00 P.M. on Saturday afternoon) Handel, the ‘Messiah’ composer who Beethoven once said was “the greatest of us all” wrote 40 operas in his lifetime, along with a number of English oratorios, and he now being re-evaluated and seen as one of the greatest of all opera composers, one whose music for the form is both infectiously rhythmic and refreshingly spontaneous. The two counter-tenors were marvelous as was world famous soprano Rene Fleming. RODELINDA is a joy for nearly every minute of its four-hour running time. (I am planning a full review) *****
“My Lord Chamberlain’s Consort: A Renaissance Christmas” was hosted by the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan on Sunday afternoon and it features seventeenth-century music performed by lute, cittern and viol with esteemed tenors and sopranos Phillip Anderson, Rosamund Morley, Pat O’Brien, Andy Rutherford and Marcia Young. The music of Tomas Ravenscroft, Michael Praetorious, Henry Lawes included some traditional holiday hymns and work that has survived for over 400 years. It was a lovely concert that boasted some great highlights including “Lo how a rose” and “Romanesca.” **** 1/2
The stage play “Angel Reapers” is played by Shaker brothers and sisters, who sing and dance to Shaker spiritials in a cappella on the vast stage of the Joyce on Eighth Avenue. It was an interesting idea and it has its moments, but overall it was only passable at best, as a stage work needs more than just a unique concept to sustain the length. Seen on Saturday night, the play was written by Alfred Uhry, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Driving Miss Daisy. ** 1/2
The completed movie schedule was as follows:
Shame **** 1/2 (Friday night) Chelsea Cinemas
Into the Abyss **** (Wednesday night) IFC Film Center
Eames: The Architect and the Painter *** 1/2 (Wed.) IFC Film Center
The King of Devil’s Island **** (Thursday night) Cinema Village
The Flesh and the Devil (1926) **** 1/2 (Monday night) Film Forum
THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL is a famous silent with Greta Garco and John Gilbert, with direction by Clarence Brown. The film is a romantic drama with a wartime context that wields considerable emotional power. The live piano accompaniment that is employed for this entire Monday night series was Steve Sterner’s best and most affecting to date!
Warner Herzog’s capital punishment documentary INTO THE ABYSS has a few inconsistencies, but it is a powerful piece nonetheless, again showing Herzog as a master class interviewer. It isn’t quite on a level with his earlier CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, but the subject here is more arresting. EAMES: THE ARCHITECT AND THE PAINTER would seem like a guaranteed bore, but it is reasonably engaging, thanks to the interviews with the charismatic husband and wife team at its center. KING OF DEVIL’S ISLAND is a taut and bleak piece set in the Norway snow that features a riveting prison revolt in a youth compound. This is often a most arresting drama with haunting human interplay in an atmospheric setting.
A vocal minority have complained that Steve McQueen’s SHAME is hollow and empty, but this incisive, stark and despairing film is anything but, as it peels the gauze and takes a dead-on look at a sexoholic in a stylistically oppressive urban milieu, with the complicity of two of the year’s most electrifying performances by Michael Fassbender (what a year he’s having!) and Cary Mulligan.
I saw THE ARTIST and THE DESCENDANTS a second time on Sunday morning and evening. Both are still excellent films, but the former goes up a half-star (4 to 4.5) while teh latter goes from 4.5 to 4, a half star less. This all means that THE ARTIST is a sure Top Ten finisher, while THE DESCENDANTS will probably not make the Top Ten.
Some links have been updated:
John Greco, writer extraordinaire, has penned one of his greatest pieces at Twenty Four Frames on Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/rear-window-1954-alfred-hitchcock/
R.D. Finch has written a buffo essay on “The Tree of Life” at The Movie Projector: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2011/12/tree-of-life-2011.html
Judy Geater at Movie Classics has penned a new entry in her seminal Wellman series: 1932′s “Love is a Rachet.” As always is a marvelous piece: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/love-is-a-racket-william-a-wellman-1932/
Tony d’Ambra has posted a new entry in his “Noir Digest” series, two penetrating assessments of “Onflict” and “Rogue Cop” at FilmsNoir.net: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/noir-digest-conflict-and-a-rogue-cop.html
On the occasion of Woody Allen’s 76th birthday, Jaime Grijalba offers up a killer list of his ten favorite Woodman films at Exodus 8:2: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2011/12/los-76-de-woody-allen.html
Just Another Film Buff (Srikanth) has again unearthed an art house piece from 2010 from China that appears to be an essential survival tale. It’s “The Ditch” from Wang Biong, and it’s at The Seventh Art: http://theseventhart.info/2011/12/04/ellipsis-51/
Laurie Buchanan at Speaking From The Heart covers “Aries” in her extraordinary astrological series: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/aries-mar-21-apr-19/
Dee Dee has posted a wonderfully informative and engaging piece on the origin of lobby cards at Darkness Into Light: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2011/11/holding-auctiontaking-look-at-eleven.html
Jon Warner has written a terrific review of Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” at Films Worth Watching: http://filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com/2011/12/before-sunrise-1995-directed-by-richard.html
Marilyn Ferdinand appears to have written another brilliant essay on a film she recently saw with Shane at the University of Chicago called “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975″ at Ferdy-on-Films: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=12413
Meanwhile, Roderick Heath on the same pages has penned yet another in his endless line of writing treasures with a review on 2011′s “Warrior”: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=12374
At Roderick Heath’s literature blog, English-One-O-Worst, the great writer takes on the Bard’s “King Lear” and the result is a scholarly masterpiece: http://englishoneoworst.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-he-rightly-is-king-lear-as-king.html
Pat Perry evokes Woody Allen and Central Park in her poetic and picturesque post at Doodad Kind of Town, wishing her readers a Happy Thanksgiving: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2011/11/i-recall-central-park-in-fall.html
Craig Kennedy issues high praise for “Shame” on this week’s new Watercooler post at Living in Cinema: http://livingincinema.com/2011/12/04/nc-17-shame-doesnt-need-to-hide-its-face-at-the-box-office/
Murderous Ink, in Tokyo examines 1920′s cinema ia a brilliant new post titled “Going Berserk” at Vermillion and One Nights: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2011/11/going-berserk.html
At Patricia’s Wisdom, our friend and proctor of the same name has penned another superlative movie review, this time on the BBC film Creation: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2011/12/creation-%e2%80%93-a-movie-review/
At Scribbles and Ramblings Sachin Gandhi has penned a master class essay on “Martha Marcy May Marlene”: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2011/11/girl-with-three-names.html
At the always-spectacular Creativepotager’s blog, artist Terrill Welch offers up another captivating work-in-progress on her latest oil painting: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/spilling-over-original-oil-painting-by-terrill-welch/
Writer extraordinaire Samuel Wilson, has penned a tremendous review of Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” at Mondo 70: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2011/12/on-big-screen-hugo-2011.html
At The Long Voyage Home, Peter Lenihan features 103 year-old director Manuoel de Oliveira’s “The Strange Case of Angelica”: http://thelongvoyagehome.blogspot.com/2011/11/moving-beyond-materialism-manoel-de.html
The gifted and always brilliant Jason Bellamy takes a fascinating and perceptive look at “J Edgar” that in some measure differs from the majority stand. It’s at The Cooler: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2011/11/solid-weight-j-edgar.html
Filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman at The Late Lullaby offers up a new quartet of films including one by Ozu and another by Pialat that impressed him greatly as of late: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2011/11/favorite-four-part-fifteen.html
Again Stephen Russell-Gebbett expands the boundaries of blog posts by offering up some cogent ideas as what makes a film work in a tremendous piece titled “Film and Musicality: The Importance of Tempo, Rhythm, Length and Timing” at Checking On My Sausages: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2011/11/film-and-musicality-importance-of-tempo.html
At The Schleicher Spin David asks writers to name the ten people from the past they’d most want to have a conversation with: http://theschleicherspin.com/2011/11/23/elizabeth-r-you-free-for-dinner/
At Cinemascope Shubajit Laheri has an impressive and honest capsule of the Czech film “Kolya”: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2011/12/kolya-1996.html
At This Island Rod, Roderick Heath stays the course with another stupendous review, this one on 1971′s “When Eight Bells Toll: http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2011/11/when-eight-bells-toll-1971.html
Michael Harford, the erstwhile ‘Coffee Messiah’ offers up an engaging video about the beverage’s worldwide popularity: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2011/11/coffee-break.html
Troy Olson announces plans to commence with his Robert Bresson project at Elusive as Robert Denby: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2011/11/argh.html
Jason Marshall explains why he feels that “Anonymous” is the worst film he has seen in 2011 thus far at Movies Over Matter: http://moviesovermatter.com/2011/11/10/why-anonymous-is-the-worst-movie-ive-seen-in-2011-so-far/
At Petrified Fountain of Thought Stephen Morton offers up three terrific capsules on “50/50″, “Moneyball” and “Ides of March”: http://petrifiedfountainofthought.blogspot.com/2011/11/recent-movies-5050-moneyball-ides-of.html
Fritz Lang, Joseph Losey and Jean-Luc Godard all figure in Drew McIntosh’s latest post “I’ll Be Damned” at The Blue Vial: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2011/11/ill-be-damned.html
Kevin Olson offers up a postscript to his recent Horror Blogothon at Hugo Stigliz Makes Movies: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/italian-horror-blogathon-postscript.html
Tony Dayoub at Cinema Viewfinder offers up an interview with the Self-Styled Siren: http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2011/11/gone-to-earth-conversation-with-self.html
Hokahey has penned an impressive review of “The Immortals” at Little Worlds: http://hokahey-littleworlds.blogspot.com/2011/11/immortal-imagery-immortals.html
Dave Van Poppel is gearing for some updates at Visions of Non Fiction, but presently is still leading up with his very fine review of “Project Nim”: http://visionsofnonfiction.blogspot.com/2011/08/project-nim.html
At The Reluctant Bloger Jeff Stroud has offered up some stunning beautiful images in a post titled “Autumn Leaves”: http://jeffstroud.wordpress.com/